“Know the Difference Between Technique and Voice”
by Dorian Lassiter 6/1/11
It sounds simple, right? Who could confuse those things? Many of the writers who show me their work do. They read the bazillion books and articles on writing with flair and making your queries or articles stand out then immediately interpret “stand out” to mean its time to violate the laws of the English language and commence crucifying everything their eighth grade English teacher ever told them. This isn’t because they don’t know proper grammar and diction, or even because they are bad writers, but because they’re trying to attract attention to their work by altering it’s fundamental structure. I promise this is not the type of attention you want for your piece.
To set that record straight, this mistake is common because many new writers who are still perfecting their craft and the style with which they intend to deliver the craft to their readers haven’t subconsciously differentiated between their writing technique and their writing voice. So, yes, for those of you that aren’t sure what I mean, I’m going to explain. the rest of you who are sure you know the difference will just have to suffer through the next paragraph or two.
You’re writing technique is unique, in that it’s how you demonstrate to your readers how you can command and manipulate the words of our language and craft them into an entertaining, enlightening or informative story. However, the tools that you use to structure your sentences, paragraphs, punctuation, and spelling are not open for crucifixion; by you or any of us!
When those dazzling how-to books and articles beg you to add flair and make your words “stand out” what they are referring to is how you express your voice.
Your voice as a writer is demonstrated by how you select your words and structure your prose. More important, are the words that you don’t use (eg. excessive adjectives or pronouns), but the most important aspect of developing your voice lies in how you create flowing, believable dialog between your characters. Any writer worth their salt will tell you this is the key to writing an amazing story. This is how you make your prose pop and jump off the page to your readers, especially when those readers are editors or agents who are trying to determine if you’re worth the investment of their critically limited resources.
Entire novel-length books are written about this and other similar topics, but there are truly enough of those out there already that I’m not going to continue to pound home the details in this article. Suffice to say, I believe I’ve achieved the goal of illustrating the difference between technique and voice and in expressing to you that you should know the difference between your use of technique and your deliverance of voice, and never confuse the two when challenged to make your writing “stand out.”
If you keep those simply subtle differences in mind while writing your next piece, I think you’ll find many more acceptance letters in your future. In the meantime, may your ideas will flow like wine, and your prose hum like a vintage Ferrari!